Chennai

Court steps in to save lands owned by 36,000 temples

Madurai Meenakshi temple.

Madurai Meenakshi temple.   | Photo Credit: G_Moorthy

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Orders entire data to be uploaded on HR & CE website within three months

In an attempt to protect temple properties, the Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department to collate details of properties owned by over 36,000 temples under its control and publish the status of the properties on its website within three months.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam issued the direction while disposing of a writ petition related to fixation of fair rent for temple property in Tiruvarur. He ordered that the list of rent defaulters, those who were in unlawful occupation of temple properties should be uploaded on the official website of HR & CE Department within three months.

Further, all civil courts in the State were directed to find out the suits instituted against orders passed by the officials under the HR & CE Act and dispose them of expeditiously without any lapse of time. The Registrar General of the High Court was ordered to communicate the direction to all the civil courts in the State.

The other significant direction issued by the judge was to HR&CE Commissioner who was ordered to constitute committees to identify the encroachers, illegal occupants, land grabbers who are in possession of the temple properties and initiate appropriate legal action against them before the end of January next year. Observing that huge tracts of temple lands in the State could not have landed in the hands of land grabbers without the connivance of HR & CE officials, the judge directed the Commissioner to constitute separate committees consisting of officials with proven integrity to identify the erring officials and initiate disciplinary action.

Compliance report

He also sought a compliance report from the Commissioner and directed the High Court Registry to list the case again on January 23. “With all humility, this court with pain, has to observe that the HR&CE department remained as a silent spectator for such large scale illegalities and corrupt activities.

“No one can believe that the higher officials of the department are unaware of such illegalities and corrupt activities. Only possible inference to be drawn is that they have not initiated any effective and efficient actions to prevent or at least to set right all those illegalities and corrupt activities,” the judge said.

Pointing out that most top officials of the department were law graduates, the judge wondered how such people could allow temple properties to be under illegal occupation. “The growing trend across the State is that encroachment of public lands, temple lands and trust lands is continuing unabated as a menace.

“However, no effective steps are taken to curb the illegal activities of those land mafias and land grabbers. Contrarily, the authorities have either colluded or remained as silent spectators. Few honest officials remain as silent spectators and their inaction encourages these illegal activities,” he added.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 7:35:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/court-steps-in-to-save-lands-owned-by-36000-temples/article25384524.ece

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